Natural eye care through an integrative lens

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Vision happens in the mind, said Marc Grossman, OD, LAc, co-founder of Natural Eye Care, at the 2020 Integrative Healthcare Symposium in New York City.

“If we can change our mind, we can change our eyes,” he said. “If you have a narrow way of thinking, you’ll have a narrow way of seeing.”

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the eyes are the shen or the spirit. When working with people’s vision, practitioners are working with the person’s soul, Grossman said.

Grossman approaches eye care with a collaborative approach and encourages referrals. He personally works with chiropractors, osteopaths, naturopathic doctors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, yoga teachers, massage therapists, and holistic dentists, to name a few.

Vision conditions can be caused by genetics, trauma, drugs and medication, nutritional deficiencies, function, poor circulation, and systemic disease, said Grossman. Function effects structure, he said.

One major concern in integrative vision care is the increasing rates of nearsightedness. In Asia, 90 percent of children are nearsighted, and in the U.S. rates are nearing epidemic levels with more than 80 million people diagnosed. Computers have made the problem worse, but Grossman said this is a function of how we overuse our eyes.

Integrative vision care in the optometric office may include refraction, eye exercises and visual hygiene, stress, pathology, applied kinesiology, yoga postures, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

To start, Grossman recommends several exercises to keep eyes healthy:

  • Breathing
  • Vision statements
  • Palming
  • Figure eights
  • The hot dog
  • Scanning
  • Effortless focus
  • Near and far focus
  • Eye massage
  • Zooming
  • Sunning

Grossman also recommends several nutritional supplements, including lutein, zeaxanthin, bilberry, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D3, and a multivitamin. He urges good visual hygiene, astaxanthin, diet, juicing, natural daylight, exercise, and vision therapy.

Nutrition can also help address conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Nutrition for cataracts might include vitamin C, glutathione, lutein, alpha lipoic acid, and carnosine. For glaucoma, Grossman recommends ginkgo biloba and vinpocetine for circulation; coleus forskohlii, taurine, bilberry, grapeseed extract, magnesium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, CoQ10, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin C for optic nerve health; and coleus forskohlli, vitamin C, and alpha-lipoic acid for reducing eye pressure. Nutrition for macular degeneration may include lutein, zeaxanthin, meso  zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin, and bilberry.

Foods known to increase eye disease like glaucoma include coffee, glutamate or MSG, and artificial sweeteners, while foods known to decrease disease include fruits and vegetables, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium, water, and green tea. Lutein, shown to prevent macular degeneration, can be found in kale, spinach, and other dark leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, papaya, eggs, and oranges.

“If practitioners can get people on a good diet, many of the vision conditions that we have can be prevented,” said Grossman.